Effects of Physical Exercise on Executive Functions: Going beyond Simply Moving to Moving with Thought Best concluded in his review that “cognitively-engaging exercise appears to have a stronger effect than non-[cognitively]-engaging exercise on children’s executive function[s].”
I fully agree. I would like to extend that in several ways. First, I predict that will be found to be true at all ages, not just in children. Two, I predict that improving bimanual coordination and eye-hand coordination, and working on activities that require frequently crossing the midline and/or rhythmic movement, might be particularly valuable.
EFs, and the prefrontal cortex on which they depend, are the first to suffer and suffer more than any other brain region or mental abilities if you are sad, stressed, lonely, not getting enough sleep, or not physically[1,29]. Any of those factors would work against seeing an EF benefit from an intervention or that EF benefit lasting. Conversely, we all display better EFs when we are happy, calm, well-rested, physically fit, and feel socially supported [1,29]. Any program that enhances these things that support EFs and/or reduces things that impair EFs (like feeling alone) while also directly requiring, training, and challenging EFs should, I think, be best at improving EFs [30, 31].
We need to have people do things that they absolutely love, that bring them great joy and pride and build their self-confidence, and things that make them feel less alone and more a part of a larger community working on something that all participants value – in addition to improving physical fitness and motor skills and directly training and challenging EFs.
Until the many holes in the research literature begin to be filled it will be difficult to draw firm conclusions but I put my money on activities that improve physical fitness but also (a) train and challenge diverse motor and EF skills, (b) bring joy, pride, and self-confidence, and (c) provide a sense of social belonging (e.g., group or team membership).
Ref : Ann Sports Med Res. Link to the Article
Ann Sports Med Res. 2015 Jan 19; 2(1): 1011.